Phone: 416-537-4191

What is the Firefly Project?

“Children start off wanting more than anything else to know what another child is thinking about. That’s the basic agreement between storytellers, actors, and audience. The ability to communicate an idea is the most profoundly human act of all. The simple need to communicate is the basis of community and of education itself. Tell me your story and I’ll tell you mine; we’ll put all our stories on a pretend stage and then we’ll know who we are.”  -Vivian Paley (Acting Out: Drama as Social Action, Oct/Nov, 2002)

The Firefly Project: A Storytelling and Drama Residency for Kindergarten and Grade One

A project by Theatre Direct, based upon the work of Vivian Paley

For 40 years Theatre Direct has been creating and producing exceptional theatre especially with young audiences in mind. An important part of our process is collaboration with young people and their educators through unique classroom-based projects. The Firefly Project is the foundation of our work with the very youngest.

The Firefly Project facilitates the very young in our schools to tell original stories and communicate them to their fellow students. In short, the students tell their stories to an artist who writes them down and then helps the class to informally act them out. The work is based upon the ideas of the renowned educator Vivian Paley. Paley believes that “drama, play, and stories are essential tools with which to examine the social and emotional worlds that are the foundations of literacy and learning” (Paley, A Child’s Work, 2005).

The Firefly Project brings her ideas and practices vividly to life with an added focus in drama. Paley outlines the methodology used in the project in her book, “The Boy Who Would Be Helicopter”. An aim of the project is to ensure that at the end of the residency, teachers will feel comfortable integrating drama exercises and storytelling techniques on an ongoing basis as part of their teaching practice.

The Firefly Project puts play, storytelling and story acting into the community of the classroom. Each child is granted the space to be listened to and acknowledged. Drama, play and stories are tools that the students can use to examine their social and emotional worlds as they learn to communicate.

The Firefly Project aims to:

  • Nurture early literacy skills by engaging a child’s innate capacity for imaginative play, storytelling and drama.
  • Nurture a collaborative and shared culture of creativity in the classroom community.
  • Provide a model for teachers and early childhood educators to integrate storytelling and drama tools into the kindergarten classroom.

Project Summary

The project brings an artist into a school for 25 hours to work with Kindergarten and/or Grade One students and their teachers. Ideally, we work with one class in the morning and a second class in the afternoon. If class sizes are not too large, sometimes a third class can be fit into the program.

Each session begins with a 20 – 30 minute drama warm-up. The students then continue with their regular classroom activities as the artist takes down their individual stories after which the child takes time to illustrate their story. At the end of each session, everyone meets at the Story Stage to watch the stories being acted out by their peers. On the last day of the program a book launch celebration takes place where the class is presented with a “published” classroom book and everyone acts out a final story together.


“This has been the most important piece of PD [professional development] I have ever had” – Fraser Mustard Educator Robyn Wynberg


Ontario Curriculum Connections
This program embraces many areas of the Ontario School Curriculum making it a perfect fit with the school system. Here is a broad overview of how our program meets the expectations set up in the 2016 Kindergarten Program Curriculum.

  • Supports Educators as co-learners
  • Provides opportunities for documentation to make thinking and learning visible
  • Is collaborative in nature encouraging reflection and sharing of experiences between Teachers, ECEs, Artists, Children, Parents and the community
  • Gives children tools and practice in self-regulation (e.g. focusing, dealing with stressors and recovering efficiently and effectively)
  • Understands the importance of First Language and supports the sharing of traditions and cultural experiences in the child’s First Language
  • Encourages the child to take risks and try new things through dramatic play and engage in innovative thinking
  • Provides children with a vehicle to explore and express their thoughts and feelings
  • Brings the whole class together for a meeting with a specific focus
  • Is sensitive to the need to keep transitions to a minimum

Grade One
: Specific Expectations in Oral Communication 1.1 (purpose of listening), 1.2 (appropriate listening behaviour) 1.4 (demonstrate an understanding by retelling a story), Speaking to Communicate 2.1(identify purpose of speaking), 2.3 (communicate ideas and information orally in a clear, coherent manner, 2.6 (identify nonverbal clues including facial expression and gestures), and Writing, 1.1 (identify the topic, purpose, audience, and form for writing).2 (begin to establish a personal voice in their writing).



We are currently offering the Firefly Project for kindergarten classrooms in Toronto. Contact us to find out more or to book the project for your school!


To book The Firefly Project for your school, call 416.537.4191 or email

The Firefly Project is part of Theatre Direct’s Arts from the Start programme funded by CIBC Children’s Foundation.